“In a world in which almost every aspect of our lives is somehow connected with technologies, experiences linked with our body, soul and spirit are winning,” says Doug Stephens, futurist, retail guru, and main author of the Retail Prophet website. First-class goods and a good price no longer suffice. Do you want customers to shop at your place? Try as hard as you can! Take a look at selected world trends that should help retailers succeed in the time of abundance, digitisation and a never-ending flow of new data.
The individual is at the centre of attention; and this is not just an empty slogan. Trunk Club, an American fashion store network, offers large changing rooms that can compete with stylish living rooms. In the shop itself, customers need not waste any time, as everything is waiting for them in the fitting rooms. They just have to use the internet to enter their size in advance, potentially consult a stylist and then just come and try on what has been prepared for them. Additional services such as a café with a bar or a hairdresser directly in the shop are a given. No more helplessly wandering around the racks to find pieces that will fit. Reputedly, this is how men would love to shop!
When you spot somebody wearing the perfect pair of shoes you have been after for ever but are too shy to ask where they bought them, now all it takes is snapping a photo of them with your mobile. The Spylight application will not only recognise them from the photo but will also come up with offers where to buy them online. Your shopping will be done before you get home.
What colour suits me best? In the Uniqlo shop in San Francisco, changing rooms are equipped with a special touchscreen allowing customers to choose a colour or a pattern different from the one they have on. In the mirror, they can then see themselves wearing the new variant without having to change. Shops selling the Rebecca Minkoff brand have similar mirrors that also recommend what other goods on stock would go best with the outfit the customer is just trying on.
Unique, tailor-made goods are prized now more than ever. At Burberry, they know this very well and let their customers order handbags or coats with the designs of their choice. You may even purchase a handbag embossed with your name. The production itself is also documented, as along with their purchase, customers receive a video showing how their products were designed and produced.
Australian shoe seller Shoes of Prey offers a unique experience: customers may create their own shoes using 3D technology. All it takes is choosing the colour, shape, material and size, then pressing a button. A 3D printer does the rest in a matter of minutes.
Everybody is talking about the linkage of brick-and-mortar shops with e-commerce, involving not just the sale itself. Aisle411 is an application proving that mobile technologies may help customers in another ways as well. This device shows the exact location of goods in a shop, for example a supermarket, and navigates customers there.
Do you regularly need new socks, dog food or cosmetics? Why bother going to the shops when the things you need may just easily come to you? That’s the idea behind subscription retail that lets customers order regular deliveries of certain goods. This convenient service is currently offered, for example, by an international publishing group, delivering basic-care products to its customers every month. Customers pre-select the contents of their monthly packages themselves.
The more digitisation we have around us, the more we long for analogue experiences. That is why in the retail business, there’s more and more talk about visual merchandising. Simply put, visual merchandising makes shops look beautiful and presents goods in an appealing way. This does not involve fully packed racks! On the contrary! The more goods customers see, the more trouble they have in choosing and sometimes end up buying nothing. Hence, shops will often end up looking like galleries with a café and a flower shop, in which a few pieces of fashion are on display. The rest of the goods may be ordered via the store’s e-shop. Pleasant lighting and stylish music are a matter of course.
Who will win; brick-and-mortar or e-shops? This contest will be won by those who bet on a compromise, allowing all retail channels to effectively interlink. For example, in the Sephora perfumery shops, customers may try products, smell perfumes or have their complete make-up done. And then buy the selected goods via the internet. Or, for example, in the John Lewis shops, customers can only find a few models; other goods may only be ordered online. Moreover, in the shops, customers are assisted by advisors who can supplement their products with printed reviews by other internet users.
Social media’s role has been steadily increasing. This holds true in both business and retail. For example, in the Sephora perfumery shops, customers are shown how to apply make-up using YouTube videos or are given the chance to create their own video tutorial directly on the spot. In the supermarkets of the future, we may find various mirrors or tablets (connected to Microsoft Kinect, for example) that’ll show clips on how particular goods were produced. For a change, Nike shops will look like sporting grounds where customers may exercise, shoot some hoops or try the latest sports technologies.
During a time of prosperity and unlimited resources, it works to somewhat restrict opportunities. That’s what pop-up stores are built on, appearing for some limited time somewhere (ideally in some untraditional premises such as old factory halls) and selling limited editions. The temporary and exclusive nature of the goods attracts customers and easily motivates them to buy.
Nowadays, digitalisation seems to be perceived as a matter of course. That is why retailers must also attract their customers outside in the real world, while the pressure to acquire top destinations for their brick-and-mortar shops continues to grow. Such destinations need not only be expensive and traditional shopping streets, sexy are also unique premises such as old factories. The fact that top destinations are highly desired by all retailers is proven by the pop-up fashion shop recently opened by Lidl in Hamburg, right next to brands such as Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton.